* Rebels vow to "liberate" the vast central African country
* M23 not available to comment on the proposals
* Rwanda denies backing the rebels
By Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA, Nov 24 Heads of state from Africa's
Great Lakes region on Saturday urged rebels in the Democratic
Republic of Congo's turbulent east to stop expanding their war
and leave the town of Goma which they captured this week.
The leaders met in the Ugandan capital Kampala to try to
bring an end to the conflict after the M23 rebels said they
planned to "liberate" the vast central African country. The M23
is widely thought to be backed by Rwanda, a claim it denies.
A statement signed by the leaders after their meeting urged
the M23 to stop talk of overthrowing an elected government and
to "stop all war activities and withdraw from Goma".
Jean-Marie Runiga, the political chief of the M23 rebel
group which took control of Congo's eastern city of Goma this
week was also in Kampala, but could not be immediately reached
for comment on the proposals.
It was also not clear whether Runiga would meet Congo's
President Joseph Kabila.
The leaders said they would deploy a joint force at Goma
airport comprising one company of a neutral international force
of African troops, one company of the Congo army (FARDC) and one
company of the M23, which currently controls the air field.
Kabila, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Tanzanian
President Jakaya Kikwete and Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki
attended the one-day summit. Rwandan President Paul Kagame did
not attend, but was represented by Foreign Minister Louise
The leaders also resolved to have a United Nations force
already in Goma to occupy and provide security in the neutral
zone between Goma and the new areas taken by M23.
Goma is a regional headquarters of a U.N. force, known as
MONUSCO, tasked with assisting government troops to protect
civilians, but peacekeepers largely looked on once the army fled
the city of one million people.
The statement said police that were disarmed in Goma by the
M23 should also re re-armed so they can resume working.